S10 Blog

What Is Zirconia Ceramic, And Why Use It In Vape Hardware?

The cannabis marketplace is quickly evolving beyond simple mylar packages of flower. Modern consumers want the convenience and potency of concentrate-filled marijuana vape cartridges in addition to conventional flower options.

When it comes to these kinds of vape cartridges, the industry tends to focus primarily on the cannabis extracts that will go inside of them. While the quality of the concentrate is obviously essential to the quality of the overall product, using substandard cartridge hardware can significantly impact the vape’s performance and increase the health risks associated with its use regardless of the extract used to fill it.

Vape pen manufacturers have several different options for the raw materials that will comprise a particular cartridge. Until recently, a combination of plastic and metal components has been the industry standard. However, ceramic options, particularly medical-grade zirconia ceramic, have clear advantages over other cartridge materials.  

What Is Zirconia Ceramic?

When one thinks of ceramics, they might conjure up an image of brittle pottery or a glossy coffee mug, but this isn’t the type of ceramic material used for vape cartridges. Usually, ceramic vape carts are made from either zirconia ceramics or alumina ceramics.

Both types of ceramics are incredibly heat-resistant, which is a phenomenal quality to have in a vape cartridge, but zirconia tends to be tougher and less likely to shatter when dropped. In fact, this resiliency has earned the material the nickname “ceramic steel.” Zirconia ceramics are also more flexible than alumina ceramics and have a more aesthetically appealing sheen.

For these reasons, coupled with the fact that there are no dyes or metals that can leach over time, the dental industry has used zirconia ceramics for years to create false teeth. It’s also what makes the material perfect for vape cartridge manufacturing.

How Is Zirconia Ceramic Made?

Zirconia is a crystalline oxide of zirconium, the material often used in the manufacturing of faux diamonds. It's made by exposing zirconium to high levels of heat and limited levels of oxygen. This burns away any potential contaminants or impurities and also renders the material into a malleable consistency for manufacturing purposes.

Potential Health Issues With Metal Vape Cartridges

Upon entering any dispensary that sells vape cartridges, one immediately notices that the bulk of these products are made primarily from metal. Despite the ubiquity, comprehensive lab testing suggests that metal cartridges could present serious health concerns for vape consumers.

Cannabis testing labs have found dangerous levels of toxic heavy metals like lead, copper, nickel, and chromium in numerous brands of disposable vape cartridges. These metals aren’t getting into the concentrate during the extraction process. Instead, they are leaching from the metal heating element over time. This means that even if a vape product is adequately tested for heavy metal contamination before going to market, the vape can still present a potential health risk for consumers, making it incredibly difficult to prevent from a regulatory standpoint.

Health Benefits Of Ceramic Vape Cartridges

The simplest way to avoid the issue of heavy metal leaching is to avoid using metal in cartridge manufacturing entirely. By switching the primary material used in the manufacturing process to ceramic, the industry can avoid further negative press, more easily deal with increasingly stringent testing practices, and provide an overall safer product to their consumers.

The whole point of vaporizers and heat not burn products is to offer a marginally healthier alternative to traditional smoking, which still offers the same level of satisfaction and bioavailability. While the bulk of research out there does suggest that by circumventing the combustion process, vaporizers expose consumers to less toxic and carcinogenic particulates than smoking, the industry has a responsibility to mitigate any other potential health risks. As we saw with the vape crisis of 2019, it’s essential to address any possible health concerns as quickly and thoroughly as possible.

Performance Benefits Of Zirconia Ceramic Vape Cartridges

Aside from the aforementioned health and safety benefits, zirco cartridges have clear performance advantages over one's made from metal and plastic.

Metal cartridges typically utilize a cotton wicking agent in their heating element. These wicks can often be temperamental and are subject to failure. When they inevitably wear out, the wicks no longer absorb the cannabis oil adequately. The result is a dry hit—a foul-tasting plume of burnt cotton that irritates the throat and is quite unpleasant for the vape user. With a ceramic heating element, the risk of a dry hit vanishes entirely.

Due to their complete lack of contaminants, these high tech cartridges provide a flavor that more accurately represents the extract they contain. Plus, the porous nature of zirconium ceramics creates additional surface area when heating, allowing for better heat distribution and making for a more satisfying and flavorful hit. This increased heat distribution also means ceramics work better with a more viscous oil cartridge than a standard metal cart. By allowing for increased viscosity, ceramic cartridges free up extractors to use less filler ingredients and cutting agents, making it easier to realize their vision for a particular cartridge’s flavor profile.  

Ceramic cartridges last longer, work better, and come with fewer health risks. For any serious extractor or manufacturer concerned with creating the best possible vape product, choosing zirconia ceramic over metal and plastic is a no-brainer.